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Improving breast cancer survivorship

Maria, a 48-year-old single mother of two, faced the grim reality of breast cancer at a private hospital. While her HMO insurance covered just one chemotherapy session, the treatment costs were intimidating. Though Maria explored multiple avenues for support, including family and government aid, the paperwork and processes were daunting. Notably, the trust she had built with her medical team and the emotional support from her patient group were valuable aspects she couldn’t quickly leave behind.

Breast cancer is a significant concern in the Philippines, being the most common cancer among Filipino women. About three in every 100 women are expected to face this diagnosis before reaching the age of 75. Among them was my mother, Ning, who was diagnosed at 65 and, sadly, passed away in 2019. Disturbingly, 53 percent are diagnosed at critical Stages III and IV. These urgent circumstances call for proactive initiatives.

Recognizing the critical nature of breast cancer survivorship, the Philippine Cancer Society (PCS) and ICanServe Foundation initiated the “Inspiring Conversations on Breast Cancer” series. From July to August 2023, this five-part dialogue was organized by the Swiss Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (SwissCham Philippines) and supported by Novartis Healthcare Philippines.

Central to these discussions were the goals set by the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Breast Cancer Initiative (GBCI), which aims to curtail breast cancer mortality by 2.5 percent annually, translating to an impressive 2.5 million lives saved over two decades. This initiative revolves around three central goals from the World Health Organization’s Global Breast Cancer Initiative (GBCI):

Health Promotion and Early Detection: Department of Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire acknowledged the efforts of ICanServe Foundation’s “Ating Dibdibin” program in Taguig City and other sites and the Philippine Cancer Society’s ACT NOW initiative in Quezon City. These programs focus on early detection, patient navigation, comprehensive care and the use of digital technology.

Joining Undersecretary Vergeire in emphasizing the pivotal role of health literacy and promotion were Dr. Ann